Ryan Walters weaponized lower student scores in order to falsely accuse Dr. Anthony Fauci of “ordering” schools to close during the pandemic, without providing a single concrete plan to improve scores.
On Fox News yesterday, Oklahoma Education Secretary Walters spoke about the sharp decline in math and reading scores of nine-year old students. Host Neil Cavuto called it “pretty startling developments.”
Walters was so busy exploiting the news against Dr. Fauci and teachers unions, he never got around to mentioning any steps his state is taking to better students’ scores:
WALTERS: What we saw here, Neil, is the national teachers Unions failed our kids, Anthony Fauci failed our kids, and at the time we have a great governor here in the state of Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt, him [sic] and I were out in front demanding schools stay open, demanding schools listen to parents because we heard these heartbreaking stories from around the state of kids falling behind.
We all knew this was going to happen, but the reality is, the national teachers union is more concerned with politics, they’re more concerned with power than they are our kids, and our kids needed schools to be open, our parents need more school choice.
The fact that a state education secretary would use such poor English as saying “him and I” is not exactly a good omen for the future of Oklahoma students. But wait, there's more.
The host moved on to ask what Walters thinks should be done. But rather than focus on that, Cavuto prodded for more weaponization of the test scores. Instead of asking what Oklahoma is doing to help kids catch up, Cavuto asked, “Do you think we simply overreacted and if something like that were to come again, we don’t do that, we don’t shut down completely, we keep schools open, what?”
Walters took the cue.
WALTERS: We now know definitively it wasn’t the virus that had this major impact on kids. It was our reaction to the virus. It was the federal government pushing shutdowns. It was Anthony Fauci’s orders for states. It was the national teachers union telling schools to close. The reality is we now know the schools were safe. We now know that our kids’ impact, because of school shutdowns, is going to be enormous.
FACT CHECK: Fauci did not order any state to close its schools. The CDC provided guidance but the states made the decisions. For example, on March 16, 2020, the Tahlequah Daily Press reported that Oklahoma’s State Board of Education announced plans to close all state schools until at least April 6th, as a response to COVID-19. Also included in the article (emphases added):
Gov. Kevin Stitt said the decision was not made lightly but is the right thing to do based on the current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This closure will allow us time to further understand how COVID-19 is affecting Oklahoma and give students and staff a period of time to be protected from further community spread of the virus,” Stitt said. "We know closing schools has a significant impact on families, and we are committed to doing what we can to lessen that impact as we work to prioritize the health and safety of all Oklahomans.”
So, what did Gov. Stitt do to fulfill his stated commitment to lessening the impact of the closure? Cavuto didn’t ask and Walters never said. Instead, he continued his politicization, with another poor use of grammar:
WALTERS: Some kids are years behind in academic learning. In the future what we have to do is what we should have done all along. We should rely on the states. Education should be left to the states. The way the schools are operated should be left to the states and the reality is, nobody knows best for kids than their Mom and their Dad. Parent choice is something we’re pushing tremendously here in Oklahoma. Gov. Stitt and myself [sic], we want to make sure that parents can choose for their kids and if parents wanted an in-person option, they should have been able to receive that this entire time.
FACT CHECK: According to Ballotpedia, about half of Oklahoma schools were in-person as the school year began in September, 2020 By the end of the school year, in June 2021, most Oklahoma schools were in-person. Walters took office in September, 2020.
Walters also failed to mention that the decline in test scores was not solely attributed to pandemic closures. Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which conducted the assessment, said, “School shootings, violence, and classroom disruptions are up, as are teacher and staff vacancies, absenteeism, cyberbullying, and students use of mental health services. This information provides some important context for the results we're seeing from the long-term trend assessment.”
You can watch an education crisis get used as a political football below, from the September 3, 2022 Cavuto Live.
My blood is boiling at #TraitorTrump today.
I know that history will not forgive them for their (lack of) actions, but I’d like to see them shamed now and forever.